Each month, I have the unique opportunity to interview business owners, presidents and CEOs. After years of interviews, a few themes have emerged among the most successful. Ultimately, I think the true mark of success is happiness but if you measure success in dollars and cents, you might be interested in what I’ve learned from those with a lot of dollars and cents:

Processes: As cumbersome as some processes can seem, it helps to streamline business and keep things from falling through the cracks. Workers need to know what to do and when. When everyone knows what steps to take, and in what order to take them, they don’t waste time figuring out what to do in each new scenario. Some owners require their guys take in their trucks for maintenance when they reach a certain mileage, while others have their trucks go to their onsite maintenance guy each week. Some have checklists. Office and marketing processes can’t be overlooked either. Everyone should know what to do when you get a new customer and how to follow up with that customer.

Performance: Successful companies not only know their bottom line and how much money they are making, but also know their percentages. They know what percentage of profit each section of business is making and can compare it to last year’s and last month’s percentages. This can better show them trends in their marketplace and their own business. You can quickly see if your business is growing, stagnant or losing money.

Drive: Each business owner has a burning desire to be the best there is. They want to hit a home run with each customer. They will do what they need to do to accomplish this even if it means working long hours or reinvesting their profits back into the business. No matter what, they will succeed. Different owners have different things that drive them. Some just run on success, but others need to be passionate about what they do. Those owners have found that the businesses (or areas of business) they are the most passionate about are the ones that succeed the most.

Research: Before these owners get into business or expand their business, they do their research. They know the current market, they understand profit margins, competitors, and what is lacking in the market. They truly understand what it means to be the best.

These guys save money for a rainy day, for ridiculous interest rates, and for those big purchases when you wish you had the capital to improve your business or invest in another one.

Diversity: The most successful owners have diversified in one way or another. Some have expanded their offerings and marketed to the same customers. Some have expanded into completely new areas with completely new customers. We’ve all heard the saying “don’t have all of your eggs in one basket.” These guys don’t. That way, when one service area is suffering, another one can keep your business out of the hole.

People: Hiring the right people for the job is essential. No one can be an expert at everything. These guys hire good people and treat them fairly. They have always known to pay their bills and people first, and pay themselves last. They understand that when you take care of your people, they will take care of you.
None of these concepts are headline news. Most of us know them and know that these are the keys to successful businesses. But, as a small business owner, it can be hard to find time to implement all of these things. That is when you have to know how to efficiently allocate your time.

If you are the captain of the ship but you are so busy working all of the jobs to keep it afloat, then who is guiding it? Your boat might be headed in the wrong direction or about to crash with no one to guide it. You may think that you can’t possibly afford to hire additional, or better, help. But, can you afford not to?

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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